Tuesday, June 29, 2010


is thoroughly exhausting. but when you're done and your clothes are on the line- it's inexplicably satisfying.

what I did this weekend.

looked at this. and hung out with friends. and ate french fries.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

fundraiser: I really, really want to start building

Check this out- a really, really easy way to a) save money and b) help us RAISE money. Please take a minute to sign up for these coupons. Make sure you enter our code, Grace316. Then blog/facebook/email it to your friends. Please?

Dear Supporters of Visible Grace,

We are launching a new and unique fund-raising campaign and we need your help. mobba’s Daily Deal is an online service that offers discounts from local restaurants, theaters and retailers. When they enter a new market they offer to donate to local charities that help get the word out.

When you click http://www.mobba.com/portland/gorefersub.aspx?bref=Grace316 and sign up, mobba’s Daily Deal will donate $2 to Visible Grace.

If you live in Eugene click on http://www.mobba.com/eugene/gorefersub.aspx?bref=Grace316.

It cost nothing and takes about 30 seconds. You don’t have to buy anything and can opt out at any time, but we hope you’ll take advantage of their service, just like you would any of our supporters.

So sign up today and pass this link along to friends, family and co-workers in the Eugene/Springfield or Portland Metro areas. Be sure to include this link or our referral code, Grace316.

If 50 people pass this link along to 10 supporters who pass it along to 5 supporters, we can easily surpass our campaign goal of $2,000.

God bless you and thank you for your support of Visible Grace!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


we have building permits! we have building permits! I repeat: Visible Grace has been giving permission to build on our land!!!

clearly, I find this disappointing.

props to Susan for her persistence in dealing with the local government.

our goal is to start with one three bedroom home, start a small 'family' of orphaned children, and then build and expand from there.

what this means:


our first building will cost about $25,000.

want to help? the best place to give is through our facebook cause:

Monday, June 21, 2010

this is how we learn how to live

There are at least a kajillion of us packed in this matatu, barreling down Ngong Road toward Karen, reggae music blaring in our ears, the driver fearlessly maneuvering the potholes, when we run out of gas and chug to a stop. I lean my head back against the seat and wait. There’s nothing else to do, anyway. I’ve temporarily escaped, my only task to develop some pictures to take to our caretaker on Wednesday.

Sunday. Rest. This morning Susan and I didn’t go to church. Instead, we showered and dressed and skipped breakfast and called a motorcycle taxi and climbed on the back of the bike and rode up, up, up the hill, to the home of a woman whose husband died last week. Every day since his death, people have gathered at their home to pay their respects and prepare for the burial.

Today we are making lunch for the church, who will come after the morning service to pray for the bereaved. We have our work cut out for us. Food from scratch takes a lot of time and energy. I sit in a circle with a dozen other women and we sort through rice to remove stones. We peel carrots and potatoes, we wash tomatoes and we cut onions. We pick kale from the garden and remove the bugs and the stems. We shell peas and husk corn and sort beans.

This is the closest I will ever come to camping in Kenya. A huge pot sits over an open fire. Our clothes, hair and skin smells of smoke. Cups of tea are passed around. A group of women wash dishes in large, plastic basins. Visitors walk past, offering greetings and culinary advice. This is community at its best.

A few years ago I was given the Kikuyu name Nyakio, which means ‘someone who is hardworking’. I was named at a party at someone’s house, when I sat in the yard with the other women and washed dishes after the meal. Apparently visitors sit in the sitting rooms, and they don’t offer to clear the table when they are finished. My mother would kill me if I behaved like that. Within my group of wonderful servant-hearted friends back in Oregon, I am far from the hardest working. But apparently my gift of adapting quickly to foreign cultures translates to ‘being willing to jump in and join people in what they are doing’.

I’m not sure I would be comfortable doing anything else.

sunset on Lake Victoria

would you be more impressed by the quality of this photo if I told you I took it from the back of a motorcycle?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

in which Ashby does not get along with the internet connection in Kenya.

(a thousand points to anyone who recognises which author I'm emulating in my subject title.)

three part update, including GOOD NEWS about building permits, and GREAT news about money : )

'round and 'round we go
this past week I've been traveling.

I left last Monday for Eldoret, where I spent several days with my good friends the Ollimos, who I lived with/spent time with/taught with in Mbita in '03 and '04. it was wonderful to see them and to relax in their extremely welcoming home. (I just spent twenty minutes trying to upload a picture and then blogger told me it was unable to complete my request. use your imagination. they're very pretty.)

on Wednesday I was able to visit Open Arms International, who have built a children's village here in Eldoret. they share a very similar philosophy to ours, and it was wonderful to get to see what they are doing and to interrogate the staff about their building/developing strategy. (we shared a common weariness toward the government here.)

after battling with Kajiado yet again (more on that later), Susan was able to join me in Eldoret on Thursday.

on Saturday we left for Kisumu, a town about 3 hours south of Eldoret, nestled snuggly on the shores of Lake Victoria.
Kenya is looking green these days, and the views from our buses and shuttles are breathtaking. I cannot describe it, and my camera does little to transcribe the layers upons layers of hills and valleys overlooking Mount Elgon and the Great Rift Valley.

here in Kisumu we are visiting one of our mutual friends, who recently moved here from Nairobi. it's been great to chat with her and to show Susan around Luoland.

tomorrow we are headed to Mbita, the village where I taught kindergarten. my little babies are in 5th and 6th grade by now. or is it 6th and 7th? I am looking forward to seeing all my friends and I am looking forward to introducing them to Susan.

and now...

Susan has one final trip to Kajiado (after we get back from Mbita), but other than that, we are basically set to start building!
of course, this means:
a) we need money
b) we need people
so we're not really ready yet. the VG bank account isn't quite where it should be- we need about $15,000 to finish our first (three bedroom) home. and we need to make sure we've hired the best possible contractor and staff. but we're close, so, so close.

PLEASE join us in prayer- that things go smoothly as we approach groundbreaking! we are so excited that our dream is so close to fruition.

and PLEASE, if you are able, donate to Visible Grace and help us reach our goal!

which brings me to part three:

fundraising opportunity
if you follow us on Facebook, you've probably already heard, but we have a new and very simple fundraiser going on- and it benefits YOU!

here's the email we've been sending out- please take a minute to read, and pass it on, and sign up. please. we need money!

We are launching a new and unique fund-raising campaign and we need your help. mobba’s Daily Deal is an online service that offers discounts from local restaurants, theaters and retailers. When they enter a new market they offer to donate to local charities that help get the word out.

When you click http://www.mobba.com/portland/gorefer... and sign up, mobba’s Daily Deal will donate $2 to Visible Grace.

If you live in Eugene click on http://www.mobba.com/eugene/gorefersu....

It cost nothing and takes about 30 seconds. You don’t have to buy anything and can opt out at any time, but we hope you’ll take advantage of their service, just like you would any of our supporters.

So sign up today and pass this link along to friends, family and co-workers in the Eugene/Springfield or Portland Metro areas. Be sure to include this link or our referral code, Grace316.

If 50 people pass this link along to 10 supporters who pass it along to 5 supporters, we can easily surpass our campaign goal of $2,000.

God bless you and thank you for your support of Visible Grace!

hope you are all well. thanks for your continual support and prayer.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


balancing groceries on my head like a good Luo.


Jon and his bffs, Gesh and Kinyanjui


Chad and his entourage in the slums

Saturday, May 22, 2010

loooooooong day

it's difficult to describe just how exhausting Kenya can be: first of all, the equatorial sun; then, the amount of walking; then there is the public transportation, the fishbowl phenomenon (we are shouted at/greeted/noticed wherever we go) and the culture shock. today was a long day, any way you look at it; we're all exhausted and ready for a lazy Sunday.

walking through the slums can be downright overwhelming. you feel pity. helplessness. physical, mental, spiritual exhaustion.

shopping at Maasai Market is almost as exhausting (for me). I hate saying 'no' to anyone and I am apparently incapable of tuning people out: every time someone asks me if I want to buy one of their crafts/gifts, I feel personally responsible to talk to them and view their merchandise. I'm learning, but it's still a lot.

we were all out in the sun for far, far too long today and are each nursing a sunburn (even though we put on sunscreen!) on top of that, Jon has laryngitis (did you know that was even a real disease?), Chad has a sinus infection, and I have a headache (I didn't have any coffee or tea this morning).

but we're good. we're thankful that we have enough money to buy groceries for those in the slums. thankful we could partake in a greasy, spicy lunch between tasks. thankful that we can afford to buy gifts and souvenirs for our loved ones and very, very grateful that we have safe, secure, cozy homes to rest in tonight.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ashby and Nicole

we took Nicole and her brother to the giraffe center- we are sure it was their first time to see giraffe, let alone pet and feed them!


Susan and our caretaker, Bernard, standing outside his 'kitchen' (with his garden in the background!)

me, in my element

a glimpse

Chad, myself, Daisy and Jon at the giraffe park!

over the river and through the woods, to VisiGraceland we go...

yesterday, Jon, Chad, Susan, Baba Njoroge and I went to visit our land! I was very, VERY excited to show Jon and Chad our property, and they were duly impressed. it is so exciting every time I set foot on our property and realise that it's OURS (yours!) and that our dream is coming to fruition. God has been very, very good to us.

we interviewed Susan, our caretaker Bernard, and I also gave the video camera a tour of the land. I am looking forward to watching the video when it's all put together- Jon and Chad have gotten some great footage.

they (Jon and Chad) have been incredible. they've been thrown headfirst into a completely foreign culture with a very steep learning curve (13 days is not very long for a trip like this) and they've been very gracious about everything.

I can't believe I've only been here a few weeks- I feel like I'm settled in for good.

Saturday we are visiting some slums (the slums 'our' kids live in) and then going souvenir shopping! woohoo!

more later-


oh PS...still making SLOW SLOW SLOW headway on the building permits...please keep it in your prayers!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Jon and Chad arrived a few days ago. yesterday I took them to my favourite place on earth- the giraffe center. you can feed the giraffe, take pictures with them, and learn about the endangered... (species? family? genus?) of giraffe- the Rothschild.

today we went to church, ate lunch and went to my friend Tony's birthday party. it is amazing how only two or three small errands can consume an entire day.

this week we'll begin shooting for the Visible Grace video. we'll be interviewing our board and some of my friends, we'll go to the VG property and take a tour and my friend Christine will be taking us into the slums of Ngong to meet some of her friends.

it's been a wonderful few days. I'm learning a lot about how to prep for American visitors, and what to expect when they're here.

tomorrow Susan is going to the ministry of lands to dole out various payments and taxes to apply toward our building permits. keep that in your prayers!

(and...the picture is taking TOO LONG to upload. pictures later!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

general update

So, I'm here and everything. In Kenya, I mean. I've been trying to blog more, but a) the power keeps going out and b) the internet has been really slow and c) I can't think of anything interesting to say.

My friends Jon and Chad arrive in Kenya this evening. They will spend the next 13 days shooting video of just about everything, so that they can make a promotional video for Visible Grace. I'm pretty excited about it; they are donating their time and this video should be really valuable to our fundraising. I'm also excited to spend time showing them around Nairobi. (Side note, they have only raised about half the funds for their plane tickets to get here. If you're interested in donating even a small amount, email me, mail us a check or donate on Facebook. Thank you!)

I wrote on Twitter a few days ago that Susan and I were on our way to pay an application fee for building permits. The situation is actually (surprisingly) a lot more complicated than that. You can either rest easy in the knowledge that we're working on it, or you can read the full thing on my blog. Here we go:

Monday (US time), Nathan wired us the money to pay NEMA (National Environment Management Authority) sundry fees for, ah, I don't remember what all they are for, but they are legit, official costs, NOT bribes. Susan and I went to town (when I say 'town' I mean downtown Nairobi) on Wednesday to visit the bank and get paperwork. We realised two things: one, our treasurer, Peris, had gone out of town for a family funeral, and two, our bank here is charging us fees twice for every transaction we make. No thank you.

We collected information from a couple other banks so that we can discuss switching banks at our next board meeting. Then we headed home. We talked to the Mr Muigiri (heretofore referred to as Nema Guy) about meeting him to go to the ministry of lands and paying the fees. And we called Peris.

Susan is meeting Peris tomorrow to sign the paperworks and get almost $2000 in cash from the bank. On Monday, she will meet Nema Guy in Ngong and he will drive her (in his car! woohoo!) to the ministry of lands office (about an hour south of our land) to pay the various fees. What I do during these times depends on how my jet lagged videographers are feeling.

ALLEGEDLY, after paying these fees, NEMA will give us an official report declaring our property fit to be built upon. We can file this report with the ministry of lands and then supposedly we will have our building permits in thirty days.

I'm torn quite equally between hoping hoping hoping that this actually happens (because I'll be around, see?) and knowing it's going to take so much more time, money, patience and heartache than this.

So. We'll see. Today, I'm in my fave coffee shop (coffee AND WIRELESS INTERNET. The power keeps going out just to make sure I remember where I am), blogging, paying a couple bills online, researching for my health and nutrition seminar, which is coming up in June. (More on that later.) (Ha, I find it funny that Simon and Garfunkel's 'America' came on my ipod just as I wrote that.) This weekend, I'll be dragging Jon and Chad around, trying to acclimate them to this time zone and to this crazy, crazy culture. Next week, we'll be visiting, oh, a million places, taking video of anything and everything. This, and the waiting, constitutes my life for the next few days.

Oh, the waiting. and waiting. and waiting.

Keep VG in your prayers!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mary Poppins

I always keep a lot of stuff in my purse- babysitting supplies, VG stuff, knitting or a book (in case I have 'free time'), inhalor, eyedrops, contact case, source of protein (I'm apparently really high maintenance, physically).

When I'm in Kenya my purse certainly doesn't get any lighter, but it gets more specific: hand sanitizer. tissue paper. sunscreen, camera. Really, I'm ready for anything. I get a lot of crap for my purse, both here and in the US. But I like to be prepared.

So yesterday when I stopped by a friend's house to meet her new baby (and play with her two year old) and she informed me that I would not actually be going home but would in fact be spending the night with her, I mentally ran through the things I had with me:

toothbrush (always)
contact case
allergy medicine

and realised I was ready to go. I didn't need a single thing. Finally, my bag of tricks was to be put to good use.

Which was really good news, because their two year old is extremely awesome.

Friday, May 7, 2010

the morning report

When people ask me what Kenya looks like, I refer them to the Lion King.

In particular, the ten acres of land owned by Visible Grace look like they were lifted directly from the (cartoon) set. Wide, flat expanses of tough, dry grass. Acacia trees marking the horizon. Broad strokes of white clouds across an enormous blue sky. Singing hippopotamuses.

Um...yeah, so the point is, 'the morning report' is (catchy, sticky) song from the Lion King. Also, I decided to try and articulate what a typical morning in Kenya is like.


This morning I woke up at 5. 5 AM. It was disgusting. (Side note: I've been practicing trying to guess the time based on the quality of light that comes in the windows. I have a clock, but I feel like an internal clock is a good skill to hone. So far I've been within the hour, which is no small task when you wake up after traveling for 28 hours and you're not even sure what day it is.)

5am in Kenya is much louder than it ought to be. For one thing, the birds are awake. Very awake. For another, the first run of buses is barreling down the main road, honking their horns to make sure we are all aware that There Is A Bus Here.

We are aware. Very aware.

When I lived in Mbita (the village on Lake Victoria where I taught kindergarten in 2003 and 2004), I had a ridiculous sleeping schedule. I was violently allergic to one single flower that grew there, for one thing. For another, we slept with the windows open (it was HOT) so the hippos, monkeys, birds et alia woke me up whenever they damn well pleased. (Like: 3am.)

In Mbita I'd usually crawl out of bed and read, or hop online (the line was faster then?) or lie in bed and think about how many hours I had left before I had to head to school. Somehow I stayed in one piece even on 4, 5 or 6 hours of sleep (and teaching, in case you were wondering, expends a LOT of energy!) Generally, once I was up, I was up. So: I kept weird hours in the village.

But in Nairobi I usually sleep pretty well. Sure, there's the usual bout of jet lag (two years ago, I would pass out at like 6pm every night for the first week. and then of course be wide awake at, you know, 11pm). But once I've acclimated I actually sleep better than I do in Portland. Which is lovely.

But this morning I couldn't sleep. I was UP. Like more awake then I thought was physically possible for such an inappropriate time of day.

Susan recently moved into a one-bedroom flat to save money. This puts a damper on my usual schedule of reading in bed and...well that's just about the only hindrance I can think of. Point is- this morning once I knew I was Officially Up (as in, not falling back asleep anytime soon) I grabbed my phone, my Bible, my book and a shawl, crawled over Sound Asleep Susan, shuffled into my slippers and tiptoed out of the room.

Morning: it smells different here. I can't put my finger on it. Almost-rain in the air. Charcoal fires. Then the deafening silence that comes with country life- birds, cows, goats.

First, like a good African, I made tea. Bring water to boil. Bring milk to boil. Add tea leaves. Stir. Susan has a gas stove, which is nice. (I've often said life in Africa is similar to going camping. The water and cooking sources in particular. Also, the pervasiveness of mud when it rains.)

I settle onto the couch with my book and a cup of tea but then I decide to check on our laundry, which we hung outside yesterday to dry, and see how it's doing.

How it's doing is getting rained on. Not any heavy rain that will go anywhere but a light, dusting mist that I never knew was possible here. Just enough- just barely enough- to keep our clothes damp.

I lean over the guard rail on our balcony, squinting into the dawn-ish light, staring at the road in front of me and trying to see Kenya the way I would if this was my first trip here:

tarmacked road
dust-coloured tarps covering aluminum kiosks
stalks of maize
muddy side roads
tin roofs
laundry, everywhere (a clothesline extending from every building)

Soon, the road will be full of children walking to school (mismatched uniforms indicate public school; buses indicate private), people heading to work, trucks carrying who-knows-what, and bus conductors yelling at EVERYONE.

But for now it's relatively people-free. Only the birds and myself are awake.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

new Visible Grace newsletter- Ashby is headed to Kenya!

Off she goes...
It’s finally here--Ashby’s Kenya Trip 2010! After a brief stay
with friends in Chicago, she'll board a plane and disembark on
May 3rd in Nairobi, Kenya, where she’ll spend eight weeks
connecting with friends, volunteers and Visible Grace's
Kenyan board. Along with visiting the land, she’s hoping
to make progress toward acquiring the building permits
needed to begin construction on the site. She’ll also be

teaching a community health and nutrition seminar.
It’s a big undertaking, and like any valuable venture,
does not come cheaply. If you’re able to help cover an
amount of the trip costs (about $4,000 total), it would be an enormous blessing and an integral part of propelling Visible Grace forward.

Also very exciting: Jon Rosing and Chad DeHeart (check out

greatfishmedia.com) will be joining Ashby in Kenya for a week
in May in order to gather footage for a Visible Grace video.

Ashby is VERY excited about this video, which will be a huge aid
in promoting Visible Grace in the future. Please pray for
Ashby, Jon and Chad as they travel to Kenya this month.

One of the challenges we are currently facing is the attempt to get
permits in Kenya so we can start building classrooms and homes.
We believe corrupt members of the Kenyan government are waiting
for a bribe. Instead of giving in, we would like to start a chain of prayer
across the United States, asking God to move in Kenya and open

doors for us. We believe God is capable of working a miracle for His glory,
and Ashby would love an email from anyone interested in being part

of a prayer team.

The Beat Goes On...
Last month, Visible Grace hosted its first
benefit concert with Sixteen Cities
and several other Portland-area bands. It was an enormous blessing for
Ashby to participate with so many people who gave of their time and talents
for such a great cause. We are incredibly thankful for everyone who play
for, volunteered for or attended our benefit concert––THANK YOU!

Funds Via Fairway

Visible Grace will be hosting its first annual golf tournament on July 17
at Eagle Landing Golf Course in Portland. It’s a chance to golf, eat, drink,
make friends and learn more about Visible Grace––all while raising mon
for the project in Kenya! Get involved as a player, sponsor a golfer (per hole
or as a flat fee) or help us spread the word! Contact Ashby for details about
getting involved in what’s likely to be one of the best-dressed fundraisers in VisiGrace history.

Your Ball Gown Awaits
Our 6th annual auction will be on October 23 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel
in Lake Oswego, Oregon. We are looking forward to this event, which is our
main fundraiser each year. As always, please contact Ashby if you would like
to attend, donate items or help make this year’s auction fabulous!

Get Involved. Here's How:

DONATE • Any amount is great! It accumulates and helps us get to Kenya,
build the school and other great things! How, you ask? Why, mail a check,
give online through Facebook/ PayPal or buy a Visible Grace t-shirt, of c

solid network of people who care about kids in Kenya. Casually drop us unto conversation, blog or Facebook about us, follow Ashby’s travel blog, or buy
her a coffee and ask her questions! She’d love to tell you more about what
we’re doing (especially if she’s caffeinated).

VOLUNTEER • Live near Portland? Help us organize our fundraisers! Live somewhere else? Host your own! It’s easy. Contact Ashby if you are interested
and she’ll give you details.

PRAY • We need prayers; for money, for God’s hand to work in Kenya and
to bless our efforts here in the USA. Pray for the kids of Kenya, who are
being oppressed and attacked and deserve a fighting chance. Pray for
Ashby, for her physical health and safety as she travels. Pray for our US
and Kenyan boards, and pray for our volunteers, who do so much to keep
Visible Grace going strong.

Thank you, as always, for all that you do. We appreciate your support
so very much. With love, grace and peace, Ashby and the Visible Grace board

Friday, January 22, 2010

Visible Grace Benefit Concert- February 27th

Happy 2010, everyone! If you haven't seen it yet, check out our new and improved website! Take a minute to look around- we're pretty excited that it's up to date!

Thank you to those of you who sent in end-of-the-year donations- we are very thankful for your generosity! Visible Grace is slowly gaining momentum and I am encouraged by the support of our donors. There's a lot going on in VGland...

Susan Kimani is keeping very busy over in Kenya, plowing through the mountain of paperwork, applications, permits and appointments that are required before we can begin the building process. We wish her luck- dealing with the Kenyan government is a study in patience and inefficiency. Susan, we are thankful for you!

Meanwhile, here in the US we are doing everything we can to raise the funds necessary to begin building. Once Susan has conquered the paperwork, we'd like to have money to send her so we can break ground! Our goal for 2010 is to have a home built on our land in Kenya.

You can help us reach our goal!
Here's how you can help:

~Become a monthly donor (email me: info at visiblegrace dot org)- this is the best possible way to help Visible Grace bring in a steady income!

~Use GoodSearch as your search engine (enter 'Visible Grace' as your non profit)- VG gets a penny for every search. This really adds up- think about how many times you use, uh, those other search engines every day.

~Join our group on Facebook and follow our page, and give donations online, and invite your friends to join our cause! Facebook is an incredibly easy and ubiquitous way to spread the word about Visible Grace.

~Buy a Visible Grace t shirt- email me (or leave a comment) for details! (or see this blog post.) Adult t shirts are $20.

~Our SIXTH ANNUAL AUCTION is on the calendar- Saturday, October 23rd! Stay tuned for details.

and finally...

We will be having a benefit concert on February 27th!
The details:
Saturday, February 27th at 6:30pm
Our Place Christian Church in Hillsboro
$15 or $10/per for groups!
Five local bands, including 16 Cities

Buy your tickets here, and pass the link around!

This is a great opportunity to spend a few dollars, have a good time, and make a huge difference in the lives of a group of children in Kenya who desperately need advocates. We are on their side- come find out why.

We are looking forward to a wonderful evening full of great music, an update about Visible Grace, and spending time with our friends! Please put this date in your calendar, invite your friends, update your twitter and facebook statuses, tell your mom, ask your wife out on a date, email your boyfriend, carpool with your roommate and buy your tickets now! We'll see you on February 27th!